Written by Katie Jackson-Griffin, LCPC

‘Tis the season to be jolly!

At least that is what we are told and hope that this season is all about. However, this isn’t always the case. This time of year can be incredibly draining in many ways. Building up a “holiday shield” is just one way to help protect yourself this year.

Let’s take the example of Jenille and her office holiday party. Jenille is new to her company as she has only been working there for about 6 months. The party is the night before she has to fly out to visit her family.

To attend…

Jenille might decide to attend because she would gain connections at her company and feels that it is worth it for her to lose some sleep and spend some extra money attending.

Not attending…

She may decide to not attend because she doesn’t feel that it is worth the financial cost, feeling uncomfortable with small talk or being anxious about missing her flight the next day.

Whether Jenille decides to attend or not, her decision is valid. We all may encounter situations similar to hers. Here are just a few ways that this shield can help you get through the holidays and maybe even find some jolly!

Don’t struggle with this alone!

Reach Out

Protecting your time

This time of year comes with many festivities: from the office holiday party, to the extra winter activities (but have you tried the ice ribbon yet?!), and requests to travel to visit family. Despite these additional demands, we don’t get extra hours added on to our days. Setting boundaries around your time and creating a “holiday shield” becomes even more important. It is OK and even necessary to say no to certain events.

Quick questions to consider when you’re deciding if you can attend an event or not:

  1. What will I gain from attending this event?
  2. if I do attend, what will the cost be (financially, emotionally, time, etc.)?
  3. What cost (financially, emotionally, time, etc.)  might it have for me if I don’t attend?

Protecting your emotions

Extra togetherness around the holidays can come with extra questions. Some of these inquiries are well-intentioned and some are not. Being prepared ahead of time can be beneficial as you enter into these not only awkward but potentially hurtful conversations.

Keeping your emotional boundaries around problematic family members:

  1. Avoid these family members altogether; the cost may be too great for you. This may or may not be a permanent solution, but if it is necessary for now, give yourself permission!
  2. Be assertive and proactive. Let your family members know ahead of time (if possible) if you are uncomfortable discussing a certain topic, whether it be dating, your body, or work. There are plenty of other things to talk about!
  3. You are not obligated to stay in a conversation! If you are feeling uncomfortable, you can end the conversation or even leave if necessary.

Consider Jenille, who is now back home with her family. Jenille has had frequent contact with her aunt that has made her uncomfortable. Jenille’s aunt often comments on Jenille’s body and her food choices. These interactions often leave Jenille feeling ashamed and defensive. Jenille has come prepared this year! She anticipates that her aunt will make these comments; low and behold, as they are making their plates, she comments “Jenille, are you sure you want to eat those potatoes? You know it’s best to avoid carbs. I’m just worried about your health”. Jenille is assertive and states “I do not appreciate you policing my food choices or commenting on my body. I can make my own decisions.” Jenille has now made it clear to her aunt that the comments, even if coming from a place of love, were crossing her boundaries.  It takes a lot of courage and energy to assert these boundaries. At times, Jenille may decide she would rather avoid interactions with her aunt or change the subject rather than confront the topic. The top priority is Jenille being able to protect her emotions so that she can focus on enjoying herself at the holiday party.

Protecting your goals

Your goals do not have to be on pause during this time! Whatever this goal may be, it is still important despite the additional demands on your time and your energy. Whether you are saving to buy a house, training to run a marathon, or wanting to start your own business, putting these goals on hold could cause resentment toward others. You have the power to prioritize these things!

Strategies for keeping your goals a priority:

  1. Put structure to these goals. Be sure to schedule time to accomplish them.
  2. Be honest about what you can give to others (time, financially, emotionally, etc.).
  3. Celebrate your successes with others!

This is another way to keep prioritizing yourself and build your holiday shield despite the changes in demands on our time and our money this time of year. For Jenille, she is saving to buy a house. As such, she decided to buy less expensive gifts this year and stick to her budget when it came to holiday activities. This small change of Jenille being more mindful about how she spends her money this year allowed her to stick to her savings goal so that she can have enough for her down payment next year. Allowing yourself the freedom to spend less or be creative can help you have fun and stick to your own goals!

Using Your Holiday Shield

Ultimately this “shield” is about setting firm boundaries around this time of year. By protecting your time, emotions, and goals, you’ll be able to fully enjoy the extra activities this time of year that you choose to participate in. You can avoid entering into 2019 drained and exhausted. Let us know what firm boundaries have worked for you this time of year!

selfie of katie at the lake during sunset

Hi, I’m Katie!

I use HAES and DBT approaches to help people overcome their challenges with low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. Read more about me.

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